California High-Speed Rail Authority
WASHINGTON – The House passed a spending bill today that kills high-speed rail funding for the current fiscal year. The Senate is expected to follow suit, which means California should not expect the billions of dollars in federal aid on which its futuristic plan for bullet trains depends.
“By zeroing out high-speed intercity passenger rail funding, we are being given the unique opportunity to refocus and reform the high-speed rail program on the rail lines that will produce the most benefit for the least amount of cost,” said Rep. Bill Schuster, R-Pa.
California’s system envisions the first truly high-speed-rail network in the country, with trains running as fast as 220 mph racing down the San Joaquin Valley, linking Sacramento to San Diego and tying into the Peninsula to link San Francisco and San Jose.
But Republicans want to focus funding on Amtrak’s busy Northeast corridor linking Boston, New York and Washington. They said the administration had spread the money too thin with a nationwide plan.
President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former House Republican, had made high-speed rail a centerpiece of their transportation and stimulus policies. Obama had asked for $8 billion in funding for next year and $53 billion over six years for a nationwide system.
Several Republican governors elected in 2010 rejected funds their states were granted, and California picked up hundreds of millions of those dollars. So far, the state has received $3.9 billion.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s top Democrats continue to support the plan. California hopes to start the first phase of construction between Fresno and Bakersfield next year and complete it in three to five years at a cost of $6 billion – $3.3 billion in federal funding and $2.7 billion in state bonds.
When California voters authorized a $10 billion bond issue for the project in 2008, the cost was estimated at $45 billion, with projected completion by 2020. But a new estimate released by the California High-Speed Rail Authority this month doubled that cost to nearly $100 billion, with estimated completion in 2029. Supporters call the new projections realistic and tough but doable.
E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at email@example.com. This story resulted from a partnership among California news organizations following the state's high-speed rail program, including The Fresno Bee, The Sacramento Bee, California Watch, The Bakersfield Californian, The Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, The (Riverside) Press-Enterprise, The San Diego Union-Tribune, KQED, the Merced Sun-Star, The San Luis Obispo Tribune and The Modesto Bee.